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2009 Sport-Touring Shootout IV

Monday, November 9, 2009

Riding hundreds of miles can be fun. Riding hundreds of miles on twisting roads can be sublime, provided those curvy roads are navigated with the proper mount. And in our modern motorcycle kingdom one genus has evolved to best tackle this task – the Sport Tourers.

The hybrid sport-touring niche bridges the gap between the everything-and-the-kitchen-sink touring approach of the Gold Wing crew (you know the guys with the trailers) and the ergonomic masochism of long-distance rides aboard a production supersport. An inherent compromise between performance and comfort, the sport-tourer is a tricky concept to master, and it’s a relatively small segment. Most manufacturers produce only one purpose-built ST bike and some do it better than others. That’s the purpose of our fourth Sport-Touring Shootout, so let’s introduce this year’s contenders.
Motorcycle USA Sport-Touring Shootout
2009 Yamaha FJR1300
This is Motorcycle USA’s fourth sport-touring comparison review. The one constant throughout has been the strong showing of the Yamaha FJR, winning twice (2004 and 2008) and finishing second once (2006). The BMW K1200GT claimed the top spot in 2006, dropping to third in 2008. The all new Concours made its ST shootout debut in 2008 where it finished second overall.


This year two stalwarts return, along with an all-new motorcycle and an old favorite yet to test its comparison mettle. First, the familiar Yamaha FJR1300. Twice-winner of past MCUSA shootouts, the FJR has proved a personal favorite of many MCUSA testers and enters 2009 the front runner via its 2008 ST comparo victory. Second, the 2009 Kawasaki Concours 14 returns, having fared well in its comparison debut with a second-place result in 2008.

Now for the new. The BMW K series tourer returns, but with a larger, more powerful motor as the K1300GT. The new GT engine powers the same chassis as its 2006 ST shootout-winning K1200GT predecessor, making it a prime contender. Finally, the Triumph Sprint ST, which we’ve evaluated no less than three times on its own, but never against its ST rivals. Absent this year was the Honda ST1300, the ST unchanged from the last-place finisher in our 2008 shootout.

The Route

The bulk of our seat time aboard this ST quartet came during a three-day, 800-mile loop from our Medford, Oregon HQ north up the coast to Astoria and back down the freeway. Considering our last ST comparison covered the California coast, from LA to Oregon, scampering up the full Oregon stretch seemed fitting. The tour delivered a variety of roads from twisty highway to boring superslab. Chilly mornings along with a final day of hard rain and wind ensured extra critical evaluation of rider comfort.

Testing Crew

Test riders include myself, author of our last ST comparison, and MCUSA Cruiser Editor Bryan Harley, himself a veteran of the 2008 test. Long-time MCUSA photog/test rider Tom Lavine and his riding pal Donald fill the remaining seats. Recent retirees with a hefty dose of high-performance cravings from decades of police work, Tom and Don fit the sport-touring demographic to a T. Both avid riders, they have owned ST bikes in the past and, who knows, we might have sold them on a couple more after our three-day tour.
2009 Kawasaki Concours 14
Motorcycle USA sampled the 2009 crop of sport-touring motorcycles on more than 800 miles of backroads and the Oregon Coast during a three-day motorcycle tour.


Determining our 2009 winner comes via combination of hard data and rider opinion. Objective facts: horsepower, torque, MSRP, weight, MPG and range, are ranked with a respective 10, 8, 6 and 5 format. The subjective opinions of test riders rated on a 10-point scale in various categories like engine performance, brakes, handling, etc.

But before we get to the grizzly task of ranking motorcycles, let’s make our blanket disclaimer... Ask four people their opinions on four different bikes, more often than not you get four different points of view! Ranking becomes a matter of personal taste, sorting out the differences and quirks. That said, group evaluation often points out the weak spots of a design, and the strong spots too. Enough talk. Read on for our opinion.
VideosOur Sponsor
 2009 Sport-Touring Shootout
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Old Biker Dick -Gotta love em !  December 27, 2010 07:21 PM
Great read !I never met a bike i dident like! but my 06 FJR and mountain roads LOVE LOVE LOVE!
david Green -all great bikes  December 9, 2009 01:08 PM
"I really have to laugh at those that think you need a Busa or ZX-10'

You do! But at 50 I have to have a V-rod too
I ride 3 days a week need both


Stvfrst -Sport touring  November 20, 2009 07:46 AM
As a long term sport touring rider I think your criteria for rating these type of bikes is off the mark.Top speed and aceleration are great but to most of us comfort , range,RELIABILTY are just as or more important.Your exclusion of the ST 1300 unfarely rates a bike that is still at the top of it's game for many in this market.
walter latham -sport touring  November 16, 2009 12:32 AM
Own a 1800 Goldwing, a Yamaha R1 a 1200 BMW adventure bike. At 53 I have passed Harleys pulling a trailer in turns. Ran the twisties faster on the BMW than younger guys on sport bikes and ride my R1 like soccer mom. At 6 foot and 190 I am far from out of shape. I am seriously considering a ST for the fact that I just like to ride. The test answers a lot of questions for me and was quite informative. Don't knock what another person rides just be glad they are one less cager that day.
RJ -Sport Tourers  November 12, 2009 11:16 AM
I cannot believe that no matter what category of motorcycling is reviewed that there is always someone so ignorant to think that their views and prospective of the sport is the only one. Motorcycles are subjective and riding ability plus certain preferences toward the type of riding vary drastically from one rider to the next. Financial considerations at home also impact choices. I really have to laugh at those that think you need a Busa or ZX-10 to be cool and yet still struggle at handling that power in the corners. I don't think you can pick a bad bike from this selection, just depends on the type of rider you are and the bikes that supports your physical structure if >6'. I also can't wait to see the comparisons with the new 2010 VFR and C14 with t/c is added to the mix.
Paul -Sports Tourers  November 11, 2009 12:20 AM
G'day BRKNtibia;

Good luck to you Young Fella....enjoy your 'Crotch Rockets' while you can and come back in 38 years and argue the same point. I'd love to be on a sports bike occasionally, I still LOVE Motorcycling (down here in OZ) at nearly 59 years old but don't need to be dragging my nose along the road with my Knees up under my armpits and my feet up my ass! I'll get another hobby when there's not a bike I can actually get on and ride! Cheers.
Pollet -Mack  November 10, 2009 03:01 PM
I’ve spanked squids on my old GL1500 that doesn’t mean that the GL wasn’t a couch; it means I was a better rider. Squids can get spanked by girls driving sport cars. These bikes are couches compared to current sportbikes but who cares. These bikes are not sportbikes they are sport touring bikes.
Mack -Sport Tourers  November 10, 2009 02:24 PM
Ha ha, broken tibia, I've smoked many sportbike squids on my FJR couch! I take my R1 LE to the track but the FJR is a GREAT streetbike with far more capability than most realize. I've toured on a '98 R1 and short of all out racing on the street (stupid), these S/T's get it done.
BRKNtibia -"Sport" Tourers?  November 10, 2009 01:37 PM
I quit reading after the first paragraph. Yes, riding several hundered miles of twisties a day is sublime. But I'd rather not do it on these big bulky things. Why not just do it on the sportbike you'd use if it was a 50 mile ride? If you're that out of shape that you need one of these couches then maybe you'd better be looking for another hobby.
SilverStreak -Thanks Bart for the excellent report!  November 9, 2009 05:01 PM
Yes, I should agree that the new Beemer is a probably a better bike in nearly every respect to my FJR1300AE. In the real world with a bad economy, the way I see it, you could buy a used, low mileage FJR1300A for less than $8,500. Mine has 20,000 miles and has been bulletproof. It has a 4-year extended warranty on it, but it has never required anything more than normal maintenance. With the $14,000 you just saved, you can buy all your gear and have money left for a once-in-a-lifetime Dream Tour with your gal going far and long. Isn’t that what it’s really all about?

One minor technical point on the comparo, if you are less than 6 feet tall, the only one of these bikes where you can drop your landing gear flat on the ground is the FJR. And secondly, although it is the least powerful of the Big-3, it still pulls like a runaway freight train. See video.

Copy and paste the following YouTube title:
0-100 MPH on the Yamaha FJR1300 AE Motorcycle